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Government: We will miss 2024 target to end paper and introduce digital prescribing


Government: We will miss 2024 target to end paper and introduce digital prescribing

By Neil Trainis

The government has admitted it will not meet its target of eliminating paper prescribing or introduce digital prescribing across the NHS by next year.

Responding to a report by the Health and Social Care Committee, published in July, which rated Number 10’s progress on fulfilling its commitment as “inadequate,” the government conceded that “more work is needed” and suggested there was “high variation in digital maturity of NHS Trusts” which it insisted was being addressed.

In its own report published yesterday, the government clarified there were three different terms to describe digital prescribing which it suggested could clear up confusion over its definition; the electronic prescription service (EPS), electronic prescribing and medication administration (ePMA) and the broader term ‘electronic prescribing.’

It said there was “a degree of variation in the implementation of ePMA systems in NHS Trusts” but said the reasons for that “vary depending on the organisation.” However, the government said it suspected that was “related to technical functionality limitations of the systems for more complex prescribing requirements.”

At least 80 per cent of providers, the government added, have an ePMA system in place and it expects the remaining 20 per cent to do so by 2026.

However, it said there has not been enough “dedicated funding centrally” to implement EPS into hospitals, dispensing doctors, dentistry and other healthcare services, even though more than 90 per cent of prescriptions are transmitted digitally through EPS in primary care.

The government, though, disagreed with the HSC committee’s rating of the “appropriateness” of its commitment as “inadequate.” The Committee rated two other factors relating to the government’s commitment to digital prescribing, ‘funding and resource’ and ‘impact’, as ‘requires improvement.’

In total, the Committee rated nine government commitments across five policy areas, including community pharmacy. It gave an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’ to the government’s commitment to maintain a Pharmacy Access Scheme within the community pharmacy contractual framework to continue protecting “access to local physical NHS pharmaceutical services in areas where there are fewer pharmacies.”

The Committee also gave an overall ‘requires improvement’ rating to the government’s commitment to review the funding model and “the balance between spend on dispensing and new services within the CPCF.”

The Committee rated Number 10’s commitment to deliver a community pharmacist consultation service with referrals from NHS 111, GPs and A&E as an overall ‘good’ and assessed its pledge to introduce a medicines reconciliation service to ensure changes in medicines made in secondary care are implemented appropriately when a patient is discharged back in the community as ‘requires improvement.’

When it came to pharmacy workforce, the Committee rated the commitment to ensure a three-year programme of education and training for primary care network and community pharmacy professionals is commissioned by Health Education England, including independent prescribing training for pharmacists, as ‘requires improvement.’

And the Committee said the government’s commitment to propose legislative changes to allow better use of skill mix in pharmacies to enable the clinical integration of pharmacists as ‘inadequate.’


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